Researching the right homeschool curriculum
Regardless of what grade we’re going to homeschool, the need for a good curriculum is a must in my opinion. Whether we are in need of the complete grade or just a few subjects, most likely our research begins on the internet. We should arm ourselves with lots of patience and dedication since the selection is very wide and varied. Curriculum research is not for the faint-hearted, it can be frustrating and after taking in so much information leave us with our heads spinning.
The choices to pick from for homeschool curriculums is almost infinite and some new to homeschool parents tend to get confused and overwhelmed by all the information and choices available. Due to the wide selection, sometimes new to homeschool families pick based upon word of mouth or by the popularity of a curriculum. The assumption is since thousands of people have used it for many years before them successfully, then it will work for them. I would love to sit here and type the name of a universal curriculum that has worked for everyone who has ever been homeschooled.
I’m on my 4th year of homeschooling and if I compare the curriculum that I’m currently using with my original choice, truth to be told only 2 books were (and still are) a good fit. Everything else has been donated, re-sold, or if frustrating enough maybe even trashed.😒🗑
So how can we choose the right curriculum to avoid wasting money, time and hours of frustration?
1. Targeted Research. (Learning styles, Time, Interests)
The search to find the right homeschool curriculum can be done in many different ways or venues. It usually starts as an internet search and then it might grow into joining a local homeschool group or even attending a homeschool convention. What I have learned over the years is whether we plan on using one or all of these methods, our research should always be targeted towards our children and ourselves if we want to avoid trashing a few curriculums as I did. 😏
When curriculum shopping we should keep into consideration 3 main factors: Our child’s Learning Style, how much time we have to dedicate to each school day (Do we have young children that need our attention? Do we work? etc.), Interest (some kids are very into History and Literature and maybe could benefit from a curriculum based on Language Arts. Other kids might be a more hands-on type of learners who would instead thrive with a Stem-based curriculum).
By focusing on these targets “Learning style, Time, and Interests” we can weed out many curriculums from the get-go and save our time and energy for the ones that have true potential.
1a) Learning styles. We can learn by listening (auditory learners), seeing (visual learners) or by touching, doing the tasks rather than hearing or watching others doing it (kinesthetic learners). There are also people who need to use all 3 (hear, see, do) to learn and master concepts.
By knowing what type of learner our child is can be a major factor in helping us narrow down our choices. For example, if your child is more of an auditory learner, building using manipulatives or repetition might frustrate him. In these cases, kids might learn best by using a curriculum that is based upon a spiral method using audiobooks or videos rather than mastery-based curriculum.
I’m personally more of a visual learner and have a photographic memory. Show me something and bam 💣💥it will be imprinted in my mind but don’t retain well from just listening.🙅♀️
By excluding curriculums that won’t cater to your child’s learning style you are Targeting your search towards happier times.🤗
1b-c) Time and Interest. We all know how “time is precious” and we must take that in consideration when making our curriculum selection. How in depth a curriculum goes into a subject should be based upon your child’s “interest”. The deeper a curriculum explores a subject the more “time” it will take to get thru it on a daily and yearly basis.
For example, if Science is not in our child’s wheelhouse then picking a curriculum that explains every scientific fact with tons of activities, projects or experiments will probably not be a great fit. By doing so we are waisting “time” on something that our child has no “interest” on. Of course, we still need to cover Science but our research should be “targeted” towards a science curriculum that gives them the general knowledge without going too much into detail.
You should also keep in consideration how long it takes to complete each daily lesson. Sure time varies from one child to another, however, curriculums do give a general idea of how long it takes to get thru each of their lessons. Some curriculums give a time limit on certain subjects. For example, some spelling curriculums give a time limit of 15 to 20 min a day, whether a lesson is finished or not. I’m personally a big fan of this as it prevents me from going on and on and then burning my child out.
2. Make your own homeschooling Journey.
I highly recommend anyone who is starting or considering to homeschool, to also reach out and talk to other veteran homeschool parents. One way to do this is by finding a homeschool support groups in your area. In these groups, you will mostly find veteran homeschool moms (who has been doing this for a decade or more), but also moms with less “seniority” like me.😉 Both can offer sound advice and guidance depending on what grade you are going into. You will naturally gravitate more to one or the other and if you are lucky enough you might find a mentor, aka your homeschooling angel.😇
Whether you find a mentor or just a fellow homeschool moms to connect with, please remember to make your own journey. Sometimes you might run into someone who believes their way is the only way my advice, in this case, is to remove yourself from this situation. Telling you exactly what you should do is probably done with the best of intentions but the reality is, no 2 kids will learn the same, not even siblings. Take any information that is given to you (including from this blog) and use it in a way that can help you and your child.
If someone highly recommends a curriculum knowing many families use it with a great outcome, I would definitely take a look at it but remember to examine it with a “targeted research” state of mind. Just because a curriculum works with a wide range of families, this doesn’t make it the right one for you or your child. Take in all advice and information given, sort it out, and use it in a way that can serve your situation.
“Don’t make the mistake to follow others’ journey because their success could be your downfall if it doesn’t fit your family’s: Learning style, Interest or Time”.
3. Yearly Re-Evaluation (of the curriculum being used).
Towards the end of each grade, we should take a moment to look back and reflect on our just completed school year. Did the curriculum we picked (or maybe curriculums) make our child’s learning experience a pleasure or a struggle? Was it easy for us to teach? Was it too time-consuming to the point we felt like drowning? Was the material being taught aligned with our life beliefs and philosophy?
We look at our child’s progress and evaluate if the curriculum/s we used worked, and even if it did, we should ask ourselves: Was it smooth sailing? Do I want to do this again next year? If the answer is No, then we go back to the drawing board and look for a better match.
I call this a “Yearly Re-Evaluation”. Every end of the school year we should re-evaluate our curriculum to see if any changes need to be made.
4. Embrace Change.
As I mentioned in my Making Homeschooling Kindergarten Easy post, for our very first homeschool year I completely panicked. I went against all I had researched and knew would have been a good match for my son, and bought a boxed curriculum many told me was “the best”. Turned out that although the curriculum is highly regarded by many, it was a complete nightmare for us.
Sure my son had learned a whole deal of reading, writing and math, but while in tears the whole 9 months. At the end of kindergarten my son was able to read, but too bad he had learned to hate it too!😢 (Read my post “From Struggling to Avid Reader” to find out how we turned a corner). He had also learned many math concepts including some additions, subtractions, money, telling time, etc… however, once school was over he wanted nothing to do with it. Finally, the so long waited end of kindergarten came and I obviously decided to look into a different curriculum right? Not so fast.
Once kindergarten ended, I did entertain the idea of using a different curriculum for 1st grade but only for a short while. After a few weeks of summer break the tears wore off, my exhaustion wore off, and all I could remember were all the things my son learned thru out his Kindergarten year. Now me, my self and I (that’s what’s called a parent-teacher conference in the homeschooling world)😂 had a heart to heart conversation and decided not to take a leap of faith and change what we were using for the upcoming 1st-grade year.
Once again, I very well knew what would be a much better fit for my child’s learning style, but decided to continue using the very well known curriculum everyone kept saying was one of the best.
I basically chose to evaluate only the academic results my child achieved without considering if he was also developing a love for learning (Mom fail).🙍♀️ But why?
“I did not Embrace Change, I was afraid of it”. Needless to say, our 1st-grade year was another year where we learned but without learning the love to learn.
With time my confidence grew and I finally took the leap of faith and completely changed our academic direction starting in 2nd grade (read my article “2nd-grade Yays and Nays” to find out how we did it). I’m not only now not afraid of change but I Embrace it! Please know from my experience that change is good, Change makes us Evolve and without it we become stagnant. If at the end of any given year your curriculum Re-evaluation singles out too many negatives, Embrace Change. Go back to the drawing board to find a better fit and let the change help you and your child Evolve!
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will”
And with those beautiful words of wisdom, I wish you a wonderful journey to the perfect curriculum.